“How am I to raise my children in a scary world?”
It’s a question parents ask themselves every time something else happens in the world around us that leaves us reeling, hurting or wondering how we can teach our kids to be lights of kindness in a world that often feels increasingly dark. But it’s overwhelming and we often are left feeling that there’s no way we can do this alone.
The Prairie School is joining us today because they believe a complete education means more than just academia and their staff are devoted to cultivating the character of their students as well.
On the door of the second-grade classroom, there is a message describing a bucket-filling space. Words like helping, caring, and inviting articulate the concept of how rewarding and gratifying it is to fill someone’s bucket by expressing kindness and appreciation through positive behavior.
In Middle School, The Prairie School’s faculty follows Restorative Practices with their students. They focus on learning rather than reprimanding, a practice that proves pivotal in building a community that models and teaches the importance of respect.
Across all three divisions at Prairie – Primary, Middle and Upper – older students are paired with younger “buddies” to allow for mentorship and character building. In an upcoming Buddy Activity, students will work together to create kindness rocks. Each pair of buddies will read Just One You by Judith Kranz, a book that celebrates the beauty of individuality. After reading and discussing, buddies will paint, decorate, and install the rocks around campus as vibrant art visible in the many indoor courtyard areas around the school.
Coming Together for Kindness
The true power of any purpose lies in a community’s ability to unite for a common cause. At Prairie, the ultimate goal is to create an environment filled with adults and students alike who lead by example, implementing strategies to foster positive, empathetic relationships.
Dr. Mike Boticki, Prairie’s school psychologist, has spent over twenty years in the mental health field. Working with a wide range of students and families, he’s found that a supportive, collaborative environment is necessary to develop these types of relationships, and starts with the youngest learners in Primary School. “Building empathy in early grade levels leads to behavior that is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship.”
In addition to having the tools needed to develop empathy at school, it is important that those lessons are furthered and applied at home. Dr. Gwen Dewar is a biological anthropologist and creator of Parenting Science, a website that has been praised by researchers for its use of evidence-based information. In her article, “Teaching Empathy: Evidence-Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children,” Dr. Dewar explains that empathy isn’t a fixed trait or a talent some are born with and others lack. Rather, this critical component of human interaction can be taught, learned, and honed over time.
Dr. Boticki agrees.
There’s evidence suggesting that early development of empathy can become stable over time,” he says. “As a primary goal of The Prairie School is to grow future leaders, I find an emphasis on empathy as critical to the process.”
Artists surrounded by inspiration, create. Scientists immersed in data and experiments, solve. Similarly, children surrounded by kindness, learn to love. The language of compassion is lifelong, universal, and through effort and thoughtful integration, students at The Prairie School are receiving an ongoing course in the importance of treating one another with respect.
To learn more about The Prairie School’s lessons in empathy, attend the All-School Open House (Pre-K – 12th Grade) on Sunday, October 29th, from 11AM – 2PM. Register online or by contacting the Admission Office at (262)752-2525 or [email protected].